An ideal start turned sour as the match went on for the Elon University volleyball team, which dropped a 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-16) decision on the road to James Madison University on Thursday, Oct. 2 in Sinclair Gym.
The Phoenix looked sharp, particularly in its blocking game, early in the match. After winning the first set, Elon led 10-4 in the second set and held a 9-0 advantage in blocks at one point. But James Madison, and particularly sophomore right side Janey Goodman, asserted itself as the match went on and capitalized off Elon's errors.
Elon head coach Mary Tendler said earlier in the week that blocking and defending the right side were priorities in practice all week to prepare for the Dukes. The Phoenix outblocked James Madison 13-9, but allowed Goodman to hit .286 with 14 kills, six errors in 28 attempts.
With Elon ahead 10-4, James Madison went on a 14-7 run to take the lead thanks to kills from six different players. Elon tied it at 19-19 thanks to kills from freshman outside hitter Sydney Busa and sophomore outside hitter Kayla Agae, but James Madison had six of the next seven points to seal it.
Out of the break, the Dukes rolled to easy victories in the third and fourth sets. The third set was tied at 11-11 before James Madison went on a 9-0 run via kills from Meghan Nishi, Conner Beightol and Goodman. Elon junior outside hitter Megan Gravley, sophomore middle blocker Ally Karle and Busa had kills down the stretch but not enough to cut into the Dukes' lead.
James Madison took a 6-0 lead to start the fourth set. Kills from Gravley, Busa and Karle helped Elon chop the deficit to 9-6, but the Dukes stayed in control from there on out.
Gravley led Elon with 14 kills, while Busa finished with 13. Redshirt freshman setter Sydel Curry, playing in her first match since Sept. 13, recorded 27 assists while junior setter Chelsea Rafetto had 11. Senior libero Chanelle Smith, starting in place of sophomore Morgan Maner, who did not make the trip to Harrisonburg, led the Phoenix with nine digs.
The match marked a return to James Madison for Tendler, who was an assistant there for three years before taking the Elon job.